We head back to Massachusetts on a hot, sunny day. It should feel like a treat, but instead it’s like a return to exile. We try to rouse the children; we’ll go for a swim, a boat ride, we’ll eat ice cream. They cross their arms. They would prefer to be with their things, in their house. We are petulant and ungrateful, even as the forest unfolds around us, and the glorious summer sun dapples down.
A large bird wings across the road in the forest near our house. I glimpse it land and call out- it’s an owl! Edward misses it, and howls. A litany of accusations streams out of him. He wanted to see the owl! He loves owls! He never gets to see them! Life is terrible and unfair! We tell him we don’t control nature. He doesn’t care. He continues to howl, and William, feeling left out, joins in too. We know how they feel, but we don’t want to hear it. We are imperfect parents. And we turn the music on loud. The Beastie Boys. What could be more appropriate?
In the house, everyone is hot and antsy and prickly. We all bicker and fight, until we scuttle ourselves into the water. Edward floats. He is capable of floating for hours, if permitted. He talks to himself, an ongoing dialogue with the animals in his head. I float nearby, and listen to the soothing patter of his words. “That’s a nice girl, are you going to fly? This bird can live for a thousand days in the desert, with no water. And it swoops down and catches a fish! But wait, what is that? A small lizard?” He calls it “seeing in my mind” and I enjoy the window.
William plays in the sprinkler. The freezing cold water leaps and tickles him, and he shrieks with joy. Rob and I look at each other, in the bright evening, and in the splendid morning. The grace returns. We remember that we are so lucky, double lucky, and that time, once spent, never comes back.
We can’t wait for the school year to end. Every morning, our walks and adventures with Edward get longer and more involved. Anything to avoid google classrooms. The vernal pools have begun to recede, and with them the frogs. We hope our big green friend has found a more peaceful puddle in which to reign.
One damp cool day, we discover the red efts, tiny red newts before they are completely newtish. There must be hundreds of them along the swamp road and in the forest. We gently pick them up with our small nets and pop them into the tank. Six, seven, eight, nine, ten. Edward can count. He can add and subtract. He can look them up in the Audubon book. He doesn’t need school, he says. We disagree in theory. In principal, we aren’t sure he isn’t correct.
Where is William? Oh, there he is. By the side of the house. Oh, there he is. In the far bedroom no one ever goes into. Oh, there he is. In the field. Oh, there he is. On the tennis court. Oh, there he is. In the pantry. Oh, there he is. Bouncing on the top bunk. Oh, there he is. Brushing his teeth in his aunt’s bathroom with a toothbrush of uncertain vintage. Where is he? Oh, there he is.
The lake fills up. We can hear people enjoying their summer. Around the lake, Trump flags unfurl here and there, each one a punch in the gut. We are oppressed by the good weather and the jet ski lifestyle.
The days are so long now. We uncover a fire pit and roast marshmallows and make s’mores. Incredibly, Rob has never had one. “They didn’t make them in Brooklyn.” Will there be fireflies? We look and look, but they recede into the woods. Too hard to catch.
Did you know recreational marijuana is legal in Massachusetts? It is, I learn. Our friend owns a beautiful restaurant in the hills near us. Going to see him is medicine. Another person, a friend, someone who is seeing and doing different things, that we can talk to. We miss our friends. We still miss our friends.
As the month goes on, in the mornings, Edward asks when we are going back to New York City. All afternoon, he fishes. He fishes for hours. It’s hot on the dock. He catches sunfish and sunfish and once, he and Rob get a trout. William finds his own fishing rod, and Rob attaches a small pom-pom like bobber to it. He fishes for ten minutes, and then he and I perambulate. He trusts his small hand to mine as we trot up the hill and he points at the bees. “Buzz, buzz, buzz!” he says, smiling up at me. Every bird we see is “baby geese.” And there are plenty of those too. We count the goslings everyday, and their numbers never diminish. Their parents are canny about the foxes.
Our juvenile bald eagle, who was so ratty looking for so long, I fretted about his health, shows up in glorious adult plumage, snatching a fish right out of the water in front of us. So, that’s how we do it?
We search for new delights; grasshoppers that leap away, ox-eye daisies that must be destroyed, a tiny jumping spider that Edward dubs “cutie”, the hawk that circles every morning on broad pale wings. One morning it snatches a young robin off the fence outside of Edward’s room. “Well, you don’t see that all the time!” Edward exclaims. Well, it’s true, you don’t.
We look forward to rainy days, but there are none. We will go home again for the weekend of July 4th. This time, things will be different. In the city, restaurants are starting to open, and stores. There is life in the old girl yet, and it’s our life, our home life.